by Donna Tartt
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
We have art in order not to die from the truth.
This book. It's why I do what I do. So that someday, maybe sooner, maybe later, every child in the wake of my teaching will come across at least one book that knocks them backward, sits them down hard. Changes the way they see the world.
I read this book through my ears. It's a huge book; we've been together through months of trips back and forth to school, and walks light enough to wear earbuds, and housework menial enough to listen while I worked.
It's not an easy book to read. Donna Tartt doesn't make anything easy for Theo for very long at all. But it's a beautiful book. Long passages were poetry -- love songs to antiques, cities, seasons, art, life.
Yesterday when I woke up, I had about two hours left to listen to, and (you know the feeling) there was nothing else I could do but listen. I took my early morning walk as laps around the basement so that I could listen. I listened while I ate breakfast. I listened while I made my lunch. I listened in the car on the way to school. I listened while I got the classroom ready for the day, before I went to my meeting.
After my students finished their word study task, one after another picked up a book and started to read. By the time I should have done the reading workshop mini lesson, the room was silent. That Kind of Silent. Spring in Fifth Grade Silent. This is a Community of Readers Silent.
I had 15 minutes left in the book. What else could I do? I grabbed my earphones and joined my community of readers. I finished the book, brushing away tears.
And what will I do next? I will buy a copy of the physical book, because it's one I want to hold in my hands and shelve next to the other landmark books of my adulthood. I want to read those last pages again. And find other favorite parts and savor them and sticky-note them.
And then? No, I won't be able to start another audiobook for awhile. I'll listen to Arvo Pärt on the drive to and from school, because Pippa listened to his music. I'll think about art and love and loss and chance and fate and right and wrong.
And I'll think about how lives are changed by the power of beauty in great art and in great books.